Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Former Abraaj executive Vettivetpillai consents to US extradition

The former managing partner is accused of misappropriating millions of dollars

Former Abraaj executive Sivendran Vettivetpillai had previously contested his extradition. The National
Former Abraaj executive Sivendran Vettivetpillai had previously contested his extradition. The National

A former managing partner of the now-defunct private equity firm Abraaj Group consented to extradition to the US, where he faces fraud accusations related to the misappropriation of millions of dollars.

Sivendran Vettivetpillai was arrested in April last year in London after Dubai-based Abraaj went insolvent. On Monday, a UK court clerk told The National Mr Vettivetpillai agreed to be extradited to the US.

Abraaj's founder and chief executive Arif Naqvi, out on £15 million (Dh68.4m) bail in the UK, is the lead defendant in the case. He is fighting extradition to the United States and also had a court hearing on Monday.

Mr Vettivetpillai "is presently co-operating with US prosecutors," according to the prosecution’s brief argument. "It is expected that in due course he will enter guilty pleas to the superseding indictment, and will give evidence against the defendant at trial."

Mr Vettivetpillai declined to comment when contacted by The National on Monday.

Mr Vettivetpillai, one of six Abraaj executives facing charges after the company’s collapse, had initially contested his extradition and was granted bail at the time by Westminster Magistrates Court.

His change of heart has fuelled speculation that the authorities are looking to bolster their case against Mr Naqvi with testimony from the co-accused.

Abraaj, which claimed to have managed almost $14 billion (Dh51.4bn) in funds at its peak, was forced into liquidation in June 2018 after a group of investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic), a US government agency, commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money in its $1bn healthcare fund.

Mr Vettivetpillai joined Abraaj in 2012 after his investment firm Aureos Capital was acquired by Mr Naqvi's company. He focused on impact investing at Abraaj and was involved in the healthcare fund.

Mr Vettivetpillai allegedly conspired with Mr Naqvi "to inflate valuations of positions held by Abraaj Funds in order to obtain greater investment from US investors", according to a court filing last year.

Mr Naqvi, 59, has been living under curfew at a luxury gated London apartment block for more than a year after his arrest at London’s Heathrow Airport when he returned to the UK from Pakistan in April 2019.

US prosecutors accuse him of being at the centre of a conspiracy to misappropriate more than $400m funds to hide losses at Abraaj.

He denies the accusations.

Dubai’s financial regulator has fined Abraaj $315m for deceiving investors and misappropriating their funds.

Another executive, Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, pleaded guilty to seven counts of an indictment against him in New York and is co-operating with the US government. His sentencing has been postponed until the outcome of Mr Naqvi’s extradition hearing.

He was arrested last year while visiting the US with his wife and son.

Updated: June 23, 2020 08:30 AM

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